The Top 3 Books to Read Before Your Next Speech

As with anyone starting out on their journey to conquer their fear of public speaking, I have read numerous books to help me on my way.  You no doubt have either commenced your search for a book to help you on your way (which may have lead you here) or have already started reading a few books yourself.

Hopefully I have caught you in time before you have spent too much time or money on books that may not be as helpful as they claim to be.

In no particular order below, is a summary of the top 3 books that I have found genuinely helpful throughout my journey to not only overcome my fear of public speaking but to become a better communicator overall.

1. No Sweat Public Speaking! (Author – Fred Miller)

The first book that I recommend is one that has given me numerous nuggets of gold in my quest to improve my public speaking skills and overcome my fear.  “No Sweat” Public Speaking you’ll learn:

  • How to develop a speech/presentation,
  • how to practice that speech/presentation,
  • how to deliver a knock your socks off presentation,
  • techniques to overcome the Fear of Public Speaking,
  • presentation tips that set you way above the average presenter.
  • techniques that will help your audience GET IT

The “No Sweat” Public Speaking Formula all aspects of what it takes to present a compelling speech while ensuring that you have the skills to overcome your fear of public speaking. The Author, Fred Miller, names these components, explains them and provides helpful examples throughout the book. In this book Fred has outdone all other authors who have tried to create a basic manual needed for the development of effective speaking skills. This book contains all of the basic and mandatory requirements for any public speaker who aspires to get their audience to pay attention and become engaged in his or her presentation.

One of my favorite chapters in the book is often overlooked in other books on this topic; the chapter on nonverbal communications. In this chapter, Fred describes the aspects of communication that don’t require listening. He focuses on eye contact, facial expression, gestures, posture and body movement, and then breaks them all down with detailed instructions on how to further master the front of the room.  Many readers are saying this book is the bible of effective public speaking.

The only negative comment that I have about the book is that the book could be more professionally formatted and edited (there are numerous typos).  These errors can sadly detract from fantastic content in the book.  However, if you can forgive these errors, the book is a fantastic and very helpful read. I highly recommended reading this book.

2.How to Develop Self-Confidence And Influence People By Public Speaking (Author – Dale Carnegie)

This book is as informative and relevant today as it was when written in the 1920’s.  To this day, I still refer to it from time to time as a source of inspiration and as a reminder as to what I should be focusing on when speaking in public.

In this excellent book, Dale Carnegie shows you how to:

  • Develop poise
  • Gain self-confidence
  • Improve your memory
  • Make your meaning clear
  • Begin and end a talk
  • Interest and charm your audience
  • Improve your diction
  • Win and argument without making enemies

Dale Carnegie claims that this book offers hundreds of practical and valuable tips on influencing the important people in your life: your friends, your customers, your business associates and your employers.  I’ve certainly found this to be largely the truth.

This book should be considered a companion to Dale Carnegie’s other classic, “How to Win Friends & Influence People” (there is now also an updated version of this book – see How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age. So some of the anecdotes, passages, and principles are shared (such as the Author’s fascination with the life of ex-US president Abraham Lincoln). And the reading of both books offers a complementary set of ideas and skills that share the same aim: learning to deal with other people, publicly and privately.

Not only is this a comprehensive guide to improving your skills and confidence in public speaking (a job it performs as it should: offering an emphasis on practice and practical, specific advice) but it also ends up offering strategies for improving many other aspects of your life, primarily through building your self confidence and improving the way you interact with people in day to day situations.

This book is, essentially, a discussion of every situation that involves the process of gathering and communicating ideas. “Gathering and communicating ideas” which is essentially a skill that is critical to develop in order to be successful in virtually all aspects of life where you interact with people.

The author also goes to great lengths to identify what is it that makes people “tick”. What are the principles that rule our lives and that will make us do certain things or behave in a certain manner, such as allow someone give us a lecture? What actually makes a person interested in a particular topic? Essentially, if we make the conscious descision to understand these principles, then we can make use of this understanding when we engage with others. Whenever we might need to influence people to take action, or to win them to our way of thinking, or simply to entertain, then by ensuring we make use of these principals will allow us to achieve our goals. This whole process is described so beautifully and thoughtfully in this text which really makes it a stand out in this list of essential books.

One of the few flaws in this text is the same present in most other western classics of the 20th century: it is uncomfortably bigoted. There are a considerable ammount of racist passages and anectodes, and the evangelist christianist perspective gets tiring very quickly. Althought these features aren’t prevalent enough to make it unreadable, it does make getting through some sections of the book slightly more difficult and hinders the overall message sometimes.

Overall, considering that How to Develop Self-Confidence And Influence People By Public Speaking offers solutions to many other problems not inherent to public speaking, it should be mandatory reading to almost anybody who deals in any way with the act of communication, at any point in their lives!

3. Speak with Confidence! Powerful Presentations that Inform Inspire (Author – Dianna Booher)

The author of the third book that I recommend to you (Dianna Booher, CEO of Booher Consultants), has helped thousands of aspiring executives to become dynamic speakers through her executive communication training. Her clients include Army & Air Force Exchange Service, IBM, ExxonMobil, Lockheed-Martin, Frito Lay, GlaxoSmithKline – in fact, nearly half of the Fortune 500 companies.

Dianna Booher’s Speak with Confidence is a complete guide to the basics of public speaking. She offers 497 practical tips that public speaking beginners use to overcoming their fear of public speaking and become confident speakers. The author begins by addressing the most critical factor in a speaker’s success; establishing likeability and credibility. The book also includes discussions related to organising a presentation, practicing the presentation, using visual aids, and handling questions with authority.

The book has some very practical tips on public speaking and preparing for your presentation.  For example, tip 400 is a very complete checklist for facilities and audio visual equipment.

The book is highly readable and provides entertaining moments that will bring a smile to your face.  I was amused by the responses Booher provides to challenging situations. For example, she suggests that when a cell phone rings during the presentation, the presenter might want to respond humorously with a quip such as, “If that’s the President (or CEO), tell him I don’t have time to answer his questions or right now.” Or when the microphone makes noise, come back with, “That was exactly what I said to my ex last week.” While these responses may not be appropriate in all situations (such as when giving a eulogy), however they’d certainly be effective time with the right audience.

Dianna Booher has made her book Dianna Booher has made her book Speak with Confidence a very valuable resource for speakers. She offers a wealth of information and answered my questions before I even knew which ones to ask. This will be a book I refer to often as I prepare my speeches. It’s very practical and full of details. I highly recommend it for everyone.


The books listed above provide a deep insight into the skills that need to be developed in order to be an effective communicator.  All provide differing strategies, techniques and advice as to how to become an effective speaker and some go into details as to how you can develop communication skills that will aid you in all aspects of your life.  The one common element in all books however, is the importance of practicing your public speaking.  This is key to your success in any speech however it often comes down to how you practice, and thankfully these books provide insight into the most effective ways to practice your speaking.





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